Noise-cancelling headphones and laptop woes


Reading the Forbes.com review of the Bose QuietComfort 20 in-ear headphones, I am reminded quite how good these headphones are.  The review goes into a level of technical detail that audiophiles will enjoy. All I can say is that I use these headphones every day and enjoy their capabilities very much indeed.

I bought my QuietComfort 20 (which also comes in a 20i variant for iPhones) last October as a replacement for a set of Bose MIE2 headphones (yes, I like Bose products), mostly because the MIE2 set is not particularly good in airplanes and other noisy environments. That’s not surprising because the MIE2 is not designed to cancel noise in the way that the larger model Bose QuietComfort 2 or 3. I used to carry an older-model headset with me when I was taking long-haul flights weekly but tired of the size of the sets. The fact that noise-cancelling capabilities were bundled into a smaller form factor seemed like a good thing and justified the expense.

Since then I’ve used the QC20 in airplanes and many other noisy environments such as alongside busy roads and in all cases I can say that the performance in terms of noise suppression is impressive. It’s meant that I have been able to turn down the volume of my Nokia Lumia 1020 (which I use to listen to radio and podcasts) while still being able to hear everything clearly.

The sole weakness I have found in comparison to earlier Bose in-ear headphones is that the more rigid wire between the headphones and the device that you use (like my Lumia 1020) is not at good in acting as an aerial for FM radio. This might be because the wire is better protected than before, which is a good thing as the wires on other Bose sets have a tendency to part near the earphones after a while. However, it does mean that I hear a lot more static than before when listening to the radio in any but optimum conditions.

I do wish that the battery lasted a little longer as it seems to expire at the most inconvenient time, probably due to my own incompetence at monitoring its use. Overall, the QC20 is truly worth the money if you want something that’s extremely portable, high quality, and guaranteed to make even the tinny sound of an aircraft sound system sound good.

It’s nice when technology works and not so nice when it doesn’t deliver as expected, which was the case when I bought an HP Envy 17-184nr laptop. I like big laptops, which I use as desktop replacements, and was very happy with the previous HP Envy 17 model. However, the Envy 17s are designed as consumer PCs and two years of hard work had made the 17 cranky and noisy (one reason to wear a noise-cancelling headset), so I decided to take advantage of some recent cost reductions to buy a replacement. The new Envy 17s come with fast CPUs, great 17″ full HD screens, and Beats Audio (whatever that means).

Typically, I remove the hard disk that comes with laptops and replace it with a high-performing SSD (in this case, the Samsung Pro Series 512GB) and some extra memory so that the laptop can easily handle running several virtual servers. I like the Envy 17s because they come with two hard disk slots and so went ahead and bought two SSDs for the upgrade.

However, I wasn’t impressed when I discovered that HP doesn’t include the SATA cable necessary to connect the second drive to the motherboard. Nor do they include the rubber fittings that keep the primary hard drive in place (and getting them off the standard drive is a pain). I guess not many people go ahead and upgrade their laptops so it’s reasonable for HP to assume that they can save a few dollars per laptop by cutting back on the extras. But it was unexpected  – and discovering the necessary parts isn’t easy, even if you examine the HP Envy 17-184nr manual carefully. On the plus side, the 17-184nr is easier to work with as only one screw needs to be removed (rather than 6 for the older model) to gain access to disk bays, memory sockets, and so on.

Oh well. It’s all working now and I’m happy with the performance of the laptop. But technology wouldn’t be technology if you didn’t have something to complain about, would it?

Follow Tony @12Knocksinna

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About Tony Redmond

Exchange MVP, author, and rugby referee
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